CAPE ELIZABETH – Marjorie “Marnie” Souza’s experiences as a nurse, caregiver and world traveler will live on in her dozens of paintings.

Mrs. Souza, a longtime resident of Thrasher Road in Cape Elizabeth, died on Mother’s Day at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House after a three-year struggle with abdominal cancer. She was 86.

She had an interesting career that began in nursing, shifted to a nursing home setting, and culminated with her becoming an artist in her 50s.

“Eventually, she picked up a paintbrush and she never put it down. That is what she enjoyed doing the most,” said her daughter, Joan P. Souza-Guptill of Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Mrs. Souza, who grew up in Gloucester, Mass., started sketching and painting when she was 12 years old.

Gloucester is known as an artists’ community, and Mrs. Souza carried her goal of one day becoming an artist with her for much of her adult life.

After graduating from the Beverly (Mass.) Hospital Nursing School, she moved to Maine, settling in Cape Elizabeth in 1967.

Mrs. Souza worked for more than 20 years as a registered nurse in the patient recovery room at the former Osteopathic Hospital on Brighton Avenue.

“She loved her work, especially the patients,” her daughter said. “But I think she bonded more with the patients at the nursing home.”

After leaving the hospital, Mrs. Souza became the charge nurse at the Viking Nursing Home in Cape Elizabeth — a position she held for about 15 years.

Mrs. Souza fell into the habit of inviting the nursing home patients to her house for lunch. It was not only an opportunity for them to get out of the nursing home, but she offered the residents, who had no family, her companionship.

“It was just wonderful,” her daughter said.

Her mother inspired Souza-Guptill to pursue a career in nursing. She currently works in the emergency room at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla. “I just thought nurses were the bravest people,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Souza continued to paint until recently.

During her career, she painted a lot of Maine ocean scenes, as well as scenes from Portugal and Italy — two countries she visited multiple times with her husband of 56 years, Russell J. Souza, who died in 2003.

Mrs. Souza’s paintings hang in private collections around the world and in many local institutions such as the Woodlands and Purpoodock golf clubs.

She donated a lot of paintings to charitable causes, including a painting that raised funds for the city of South Portland to do restoration work at Bug Light park. She also served as coordinator of the Cape Days art festival for 20 years.

Mrs. Souza became friends with former President George Bush and his wife, Barbara, after she — unsolicited — painted a portrait of their dog, Millie, and sent it to them. The Bushes loved the painting, and sent her a thank-you card.

“She painted Millie because she loved the Bushes and she loved dogs,” her daughter said.

Her artwork also appeared on the cover of the G.M. Pollack Christmas catalog for 13 years.

She had hoped to paint one more piece involving three fishermen fixing a fishing net.

“She was going to paint it after she left the hospital, but she never made it,” her daughter said. “For her, to paint it was a joy.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]